I moved to Russia in 1999, after growing up in mid-Wales and studying at Oxford University. I had no plan, beyond a desire to learn Russian, but got a job at a local magazine and realized I liked finding things out and writing about them.
The next year I moved to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, then joined Reuters news agency, which sent me to Moscow. The first major story I reported on was the Moscow theatre siege of 2002, when a group of Chechens seized a theatre in the capital.
It both horrified and fascinated me, and I resolved to find out as much as I could about Chechnya and the North Caucasus, to try to understand the roots of the conflict that had burst so unexpectedly into my life. I traveled extensively in the mountains that form Russia’s southern border, falling in love with the scenery, the food and above all the warm and welcoming people.
When I left Russia in 2006, I was exhausted by it, however. I had seen too much misery and never wanted to write about Chechnya again. But I had promised to give a talk to a society in London. After the talk, I was asked if I would ever write a book about what I had seen. I wrote down a few thoughts, took them to a friend who knew about books, and she introduced me to a publisher.
Books in order of publication:
Let Our Fame Be Great: Journeys Among the Defiant People of the Caucasus – 2010
The Last Man in Russia: The Struggle to Save a Dying Nation – 2013
Moneyland: Why Thieves and Crooks Now Rule the World and How To Take It Back – 2018
Butler to the World: The Book the Oligarchs Don’t Want You to Read – How Britain Helps the World’s Worst People Launder Money, Commit Crimes, and Get Away with Anything – 2022